Edward J. Coleman, 85, a machine shop teacher in D.C. high schools for 37 years before his retirement in 1961, died of cancer Thursday at Providence Hospital.

He was native of Washington, and one of the first black apprentices at the Washington Navy Yard in 1916. He worked as a machinist there until 1924, when he began teaching machine shop at the old Cardozo Vocational High School. He later transferred to the Phelps Vocational High School and taught evening classes at the Armstrong Vocational Center.

He was active in St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church here and served as church treasurer of the Boy Scout Committee.

He also had been president of the church's Holy Name Society.

In about 1930. Mr. Coleman, an avid gardener, received an award from the old Washington Herald newspaper for his flower gardens. Following his retirement, he continued to grow flowerw at his Washington home, specializing in roses and peonies.

He also was honored by the Boy Scouts for his volunteer work.

His wife of 50 years, Ethel B. died in 1967.

Survivors indlude three daughters, Valerie W. Coleman, of the home: Verlette Simms, and Amy C. Lee, and a brother, Stafford, all of Washington, a sister, Gladys Rodgers, of Detroit, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.